The Fault in Our Stars
|The Fault in Our Stars|
|Cover artist||Rodrigo Corral|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|Publication date||January 10, 2012|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
The Fault in Our Stars is the fourth solo novel by author John Green, published in January 2012. The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old cancer patient named Hazel, who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with the seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee.
Within the book, it is stated that the title is inspired by a famous line from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (Act 1, scene 2). The nobleman Cassius says to Brutus, 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.'
In January 2012, the film rights to the book were optioned by Fox 2000, and on February 19, 2013, it was announced that Josh Boone would be directing the film. It is set to star Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Nat Wolff.
Sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is forced by her parents to attend a support group for children living with cancer. Hazel was diagnosed with Stage 4 Thyroid cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs when she was 13, but has managed to live with her disease thanks to doses of an experimental drug called Phalanxifor. Hazel finished high school early, and has already begun to pursue a college education. Isaac, a friend, also attends the support group. Isaac lost his eye to cancer at a young age and has just learned that he must have the other removed, which will result in permanent loss of vision. Isaac is close friends with Augustus "Gus" Waters, a former basketball player who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma, and is in remission. Hazel meets Augustus through Isaac at the support group. After support group ends, Augustus and Hazel talk for some time, during which Augustus recommends a movie. Hazel says that she will check it out. Augustus wants her to come with him and watch it now at his house. After some banter, she agrees and tells her mom, who had been waiting for Hazel to make friends, that she will be going to Augustus' house. After meeting Augustus' parents, they take a tour of the basement, where they discuss Hazel's interests. Augustus decides to read 'An Imperial Affliction', Hazel's favorite book (as long as Hazel reads the novelization of his favorite video game) and he becomes almost as obsessed with it as she is. In addition to countless text messages and phone calls between the two, Hazel and Augustus begin to spend more time together.
As their relationship deepens, Hazel begins to feel herself pulling away from Augustus. Augustus had saved his wish from "The Genies" (a fictionalized version of the Make a Wish Foundation), and wants to use it to fly himself and Hazel to Amsterdam, Netherlands to meet Peter van Houten, the reclusive alcoholic author of 'An Imperial Affliction'. While she is overjoyed by the proposal, Hazel decides that she does not want to pursue a relationship with Augustus, so that she can minimize the pain her eventual death will cause him, as Augustus lost his former girlfriend, Caroline Mathers, to cancer.
Hazel realizes that she sees herself as a grenade, and her tearful admission of this scares her parents, although they do their best to comfort her. After waking up in agony due to pain in her head, Hazel is admitted to the hospital with serious pneumonia. During her week of convalescence, Augustus visits several times, without her knowledge, and informs her that he cares about her more than he worries about the pain she could cause him. After her release, she realizes she's in love with him, and after some consultation with her doctors, she is cleared to fly to Amsterdam with Augustus and her mother to meet van Houten.
On their first night in Amsterdam, they are treated to an elaborate meal, courtesy of van Houten. Their meeting with the author goes less smoothly, as it emerges that Lidewij, his assistant, set it up without his full knowledge in the hopes that it would inspire him to give up alcohol and write again. Van Houten is very disrespectful and nasty to the teens, and is unable to answer their questions. Totally appalled, by their reception, Hazel and Augustus leave van Houten's house, accompanied by a disgusted Lidewij. She takes them to the Anne Frank house, where they kiss to thunderous applause. Later that night, they make love in Augustus' hotel room.
Afterwards, Augustus reveals that his cancer has returned and has metastasized to several other parts of his body. Devastated, Hazel becomes heartbroken, but Augustus promises to fight for her. Even though he starts an aggressive treatment regimen when they return home, he is not expected to survive long. The romance continues through pain, struggle, and incredibly odd circumstances. Shortly before he dies, he asks Hazel and Isaac to conduct a pre-funeral for him, so that he can hear how they will memorialize him; Isaac takes the opportunity to roast him.
Eight days later, Augustus dies. Soon there is a funeral where Hazel meets van Houten, who traveled to America to be there. He reveals that he had a daughter who died of cancer several years ago. She provided the inspiration for Anna, the main character of 'An Imperial Affliction' which was why van Houten was so affected seeing Hazel in Amsterdam, she reminded him of the years his daughter should have had. Hazel encourages him to get sober and write another book.
As Hazel comes to terms with Augustus' death, she spends time with Isaac and is told that Augustus left something at his departure. Hazel searches and eventually finds a letter that Augustus wrote for van Houten, supposedly about the sequel to 'An Imperial Affliction', but actually a eulogy for Hazel.
The novel ends with Hazel answering Augustus' letter by saying that she did in fact enjoy the infinity that he gave her within numbered days as much as he said he enjoyed his with her. Also, Green has stated that the last line of the book also symbolizes marriage. "Comedies end in marriage and tragedies end in death- so I wanted to do both."
On December 21, 2011, Barnes & Noble accidentally shipped 1500 copies of The Fault in Our Stars before the release date to people who had pre-ordered the book. Green released a statement saying, "Mistakes happen. The people who made this error were not bad or incompetent people, and they were not acting maliciously. We all make mistakes, and it is not my wish to see Barnes and Noble or any of their employees vilified." Many people who received the book pledged not to read it until its release date, January 10, 2012, or discuss it until the next day, January 11, as per a request of Green's not to spoil it for other readers. Most kept to this promise leaving the experience untarnished for those who got the book on intended release date.
The book rose to #1 on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists in June 2011 shortly after its title was announced. Green promised that every pre-order would be hand-signed by him, requiring him to sign every copy of the first printing. He proposed that the general public vote on the color Sharpie he would use to sign the books, resulting in him signing the 150,000 books with a variety of Sharpie colors, each in proportion to the amount of votes received for that color. However, some people who ordered from international booksellers received unsigned copies because those bookstores, including Amazon UK, underestimated how many books they needed and ordered more after the signing was complete, but Green agreed to fix this problem, telling people with unsigned pre-orders to email him so they could be sent a signed bookplate. Many fans submitted their book cover designs to various outlets including Tumblr and Twitter, tagging Green in these posts so he could see them. The sizeable number of posts received has prompted Green's publisher Penguin to seek a fan designed cover for a reprint of one of Green's other books, An Abundance of Katherines. The Fault in Our Stars debuted at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Chapter Books and remained in that spot for seven consecutive weeks. A Hebrew edition of The Fault in Our Stars was published in Israel on August 2012 and more editions of the novel are forthcoming in Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Chinese, and Portuguese. The Fault in Our Stars has also gained places on several bestseller lists. It was #1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, #1 on the Indiebound bestseller list, and #9 on The Bookseller bestseller list. The novel was also the New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. As of January 2013, there are nearly 1 million copies of the novel in print. In December 2012 it was announced that a special edition with a silver cover and an expanded Q&A, dubbed the 'Exclusive Collector's Edition', would be available from Barnes and Noble. All or at least most of the copies first available for purchase of this edition of the book contained a printing error wherein several pages of the first chapter were replaced with pages from the Q&A section at the back of the book.
The Fault in Our Stars has received highly positive reviews from critics. The New York Times' review of the book called it "a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny" and said that it "stays the course of tragic realism", while noting that the book's unpleasant plot details "do nothing to diminish the romance; in Green’s hands, they only make it more moving." NPR's Rachel Syme noted that "[Green's] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization," saying that the "elegantly plotted" book "may be his best."  Time called The Fault in Our Stars "damn near genius." Entertainment Weekly wrote, "[Augustus and Hazel's] love story is as real as it is doomed, and the gut-busting laughs that come early in the novel make the luminous final pages all the more heartbreaking", and gave the novel an overall A− grade. Amazon.com calls it “insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw” and Green’s “most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet.” The Manila Bulletin says that the book is “a collection of maudlin scenes and trite observations about the fragility of life and the wisdom of dying. And while it does talk about those things and more, the treatment of it is far from being maudlin or trite.”  The Manila Bulletin also added that “Just two paragraphs into the work, and he immediately wallops the readers with such an insightful observation delivered in such an unsentimental way that its hard not to shake your head in admiration.”  The Manila Bulletin stated that “The Fault in Our Stars” was a triumph for John Green. USA Today called it a “elegiac comedy.” The School Library Journal stated that it was "a strong choice for Adult Collections." USA Today gave the book a rating of four out of four stars.
Several well-known authors have contributed their own positive reviews for the book. Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister's Keeper, calls The Fault in Our Stars "an electric portrait of young people who learn to live life with one foot in the grave." She goes on to say that the novel is "filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy." Bestselling author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, describes it as "a novel of life and death and the people caught in between" and "John Green at his best". Pertaining to Green's writing throughout the book, E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, says "He makes me laugh and gasp at the beauty of a sentence or the twist of a tale. He is one of the best writers alive and I am seething with envy of his talent." Time named The Fault in Our Stars as the #1 fiction book of 2012.
One notable unfavorable opinion appeared in the Daily Mail. In the piece, the plot of The Fault in Our Stars was described as ″mawkish at best, exploitative at worst″ and the book was characterized as belonging to the ″sick-lit″ young adult genre, together with other young-adult novels such as Never Eighteenand Before I Die. This entire genre, as well as the genre of young-adult novels dealing with suicide and self-harm (the piece mentions Thirteen Reasons Why; By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead; The Lovely Bones; and Red Tears was criticized as being ″distasteful″ and inappropriate for their target audience of teens. The Guardian criticized the piece, pointing out in particular that The Fault in Our Stars was chosen by The Guardian as that month's ″teen book club choice″ because ″it's a gripping read, featuring two compelling characters, that deals sensitively and even humorously with a difficult situation without descending into mawkishness.″ In general, The Guardian faulted The Daily Mail for suggesting that the issues of illness, depression, and sexuality are inappropriate precisely ″in the one place where difficult subjects have traditionally been most sensitively explored for teens: fiction written specifically for them.″ However, Meg Rosoff, a writer of young adult novels, sided with The Daily Mail in her comment to the reply by writing in her blog, Almost True, "Don't throw the baby out with the Sick Lit." For his part, in an interview for The Guardian, John Green said, ″The thing that bothered me about The Daily Mail piece was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful, and I feel like that article made those arguments.″
- Hazel Grace Lancaster: The protagonist and narrator of the book. Diagnosed with Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer before the start of the book, Hazel has only survived as long as she has thanks to a fictional, experimental drug called Phalanxifor. Hazel attends support group at her parents assistance, but doesn't find it very helpful. Hazel's favorite book is An Imperial Affliction, the story of a young girl who is (much like herself) dying of cancer. Due to the book's abrupt and ambiguous ending, Hazel spends much of her time wondering what happened to the other characters in the book after the protagonist's death, just as she wonders what will happen to her friends and parents after her own inevitable demise.
- Augustus 'Gus' Waters: Hazel's love interest, a former athlete who lost one of his legs to cancer. Hazel and Augustus first meet at a cancer support group when they are introduced by Isaac, a mutual friend. Augustus is taken with Hazel from their first meeting, and she is very receptive to his advances. Before the events of the book, Augustus lost his girlfriend, Caroline, to cancer. Hazel worries that when she dies, she will put Augustus through the same pain that he went through with Caroline, which makes her hesitant to begin a relationship with him. Augustus often contemplates heroism (he purposely and needlessly sacrifices himself while playing video games with Isaac) and death (he carries a pack of cigarettes, and places them in his mouth, but never lights them). Augustus's cancer returns partway through the novel, and after his and Hazel's trip to Amsterdam, his health begins to decline rapidly.
- Isaac: A friend of Hazel and Augustus, Isaac lost one of his eyes to a rare form of cancer. Isaac is the one who introduces Hazel and Augustus at support group and remains their friend throughout the novel. Partway through the novel, Isaac discovers his cancer has returned and he will soon lose his other eye, leaving him blind. His girlfriend breaks up with him shortly there after because, in Isaac's words, she "didn't want to break up with a blind guy." In response to this, Augustus and Hazel help Isaac egg his ex-girlfriend's car.
- Peter Van Houten: Author of An Imperial Affliction, Hazel's favorite book. By the time of the novel, Van Houten is a washed-up, reclusive alcoholic living in Amsterdam. Van Houten meets Hazel and Augustus when his assistant Lidewij scheduled him a meeting with them without his knowledge. Van Houten is coarse and rude to the two, causing them to leave. It is later revealed that Van Houten had a daughter who died of cancer and served as the basis of An Imperial Affliction, which is partly the reason he reacted so badly to meeting Hazel.
- Lidewij: Van Houten's assistant in Amsterdam. When Augustus tries to contact Van Houten via e-mail, Lidewij poses as Van Houten and arranges a meeting hoping it will help break Van Houten out of his misanthropy. When the meeting fails due to Van Houten's rudeness, Lidewij quits in disgust. Lidewij takes a liking to Hazel and Augustus, and even keeps in contact with them after their Amsterdam visit.
- Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster: Hazel's parents. Hazel's parents are very supportive of their daughter throughout her illness, but their support isn't always effective. Hazel is haunted by something she heard her mother say when Hazel was near death before the events of the novel. Hazel was asleep, and Mrs. Lancaster grieved to her husband that "[she wasn't] going to be a mom anymore." When Hazel confronts her mother about this statement, Mrs. Lancaster takes it back and affirms that she will always be Hazel's mom.
- Mr. and Mrs. Waters: Augustus's parents, who call him Gus. Mr. and Mrs. Waters seem very concerned about their son's welfare, especially before the Amsterdam trip as they had just learned his cancer had returned.
In January 2012, Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox, optioned the rights to adapt the novel into a feature film. Josh Boone signed on to direct a year later, in February 2013. Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are producing the film. Shailene Woodley will star as Hazel, while Ansel Elgort will play Augustus. Nat Wolff was cast as Isaac, the friend that introduces them, and Laura Dern will star as Hazel's mother. Sam Trammell was cast as Mr. Lancaster, Hazel's father. On August 29, 2013, John Green announced that Mike Birbiglia would be playing the role of Patrick. On September 6, 2013, John Green announced that Willem Dafoe would portray Peter Van Houten 
Filming began on August 26, 2013 on location in Pittsburgh, doubling for the novel's setting of Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber wrote the adapted screenplay. Filming is currently underway in Amsterdam. The film is planned to be released on June 6, 2014.
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